Junior high, classically, is the single weirdest time in most peoples' lives. All the guys found themselves in a hormone-induced frenzy that urged to them to look across the room at a cute girl. Once they realized she was cute, they'd get those weird feelings that their friends would make fun of them for later. Then the girl, always acting more confident than the guy, approached the guy. Suddenly that pseudo-macho guy turned into a statue, lost his ability to speak, fidgeted uncontrollably, all because he was dumbstruck by this newfound beauty sitting in front of him.
…Unless this didn’t happen in quite the same way. *Cue the record scratch sound*
As I begin this blogging project to understand how my existence informs the way in which I belong to the gay and Christian identities, I think it is key to examine (even if only for myself) the ways in which I have historically embodied my identities—both in the best ways and in the worst ways. I’m hoping that having this context will allow me to navigate this process with some sense of clarity. Perhaps my selfish pursuit will turn up dry for me; in which case, I hope that you find something to resonate with in some/all of my examinations. Last week, I examined my Christian identity in detail and this week I'll focus on my gay identification.
I’m Going To Sound A Bit General
Before I dive in, it’s key to note that this post examines some generalizations of the gay community. The assessments made are not the full picture of the gay community and I don't dare hold the entire community to these generalizations.
AT MY WORST
Rainbows Aren’t Always Associated With Ponies
It’s no surprise to realize that the gay community has been shamed for its identity. In many—misunderstood—peoples’ minds, this is a community that carries around a rather antagonistic sense of "pride." For years, gay people have been misunderstood as a result of many factors that are driven by either overt or covert fear difference.
For many gay people, years of shaming and intolerance have alienated them from communities in which they logically should fit into (e.g. the Christian community, etc.). This alienation has fostered a community of gay individuals who can, almost unanimously find solidarity in the alienation and shame that they’ve experienced. This alienation has a tendency to foster in us attitudes of contempt and intolerance toward those who don't accept us.
As for my personal involvement, I've entertained this posture too. I’ve personally known homophobic people and have found myself enraged at the lack of acceptance for gay people. Even in the process of starting this blog, I've reencountered some of the homophobia that I didn't realize still existed. Historically, I have lashed out at my peers because they don’t understand the challenge it is for a gay person in the Christian church, let alone general society. I have, at times, subscribed to contemptuous attitudes that are so easy to entertain as a gay person. I too have elevated my frustration for human rights above the need for grace for those who do not understand.
Ken Doll Relationships
I’ve talked with a number of my gay friends about the shame that exists in our community. We’ve discussed how easy it is to internalize this shame and allow it to dictate the way we live (just like any type of shame). I’ve found that many of us in the gay community—who are coping, feeling like they can't have the life that straight people have—have held a seize-what-you-can-get mentality for our lives. Coupling this with the fact that many of us come from backgrounds where religiosity has condemned our sexuality, it’s convenient and all too tempting to simply “give up” on living consistently with our value systems.*
We've been tempted to indulge in a way that many in the straight community don’t feel a shame-driven urge to do. It's as if the baseline becomes some or all of these things: To drink as much as possible, to use as many drugs possible, to have as much sex as possible, to have as many partners as possible, or to do it all in the riskiest or most taboo manner as possible—a life of reaction to our shame.
Holding on to years of shameful disapproval for my (non-public) gay identity had paved a dark path in my life. At times, I would find myself simply trying to reach out of my shame to experience love from another guy. In this, I’ve found myself contributing to the stigma of reckless indulgence that’s too prevalent in our community.
Not only this, but I have found myself fictitiously developing the fairytale life that I “couldn’t” have as a shameful gay kid. Candidly, I had put too much physical and emotional energy into this lifestyle, all to find that the shame was truly going nowhere—that sexual exploration, absent of devoted love, was wholly meaningless and not a worthwhile purpose for my life.
*I wonder if the increased frequency of gay marriage will have a positive impact on the gay behavior ethic. More on that idea at here.
AT MY BEST
Accepting The Offbeat Kinds
When I was a senior in high school, I remember being thrilled that same-sex marriage had been legalized in my state. My dad, absent of understanding and the knowledge of my sexual identity, was frustrated at my attitudes toward the legislation. When he asked why I was so excited, I shouted, “Because, this city is about to get so modern and artsy!” I’m aware, this is a bit stereotypical outlook, but hey, maybe I’m an optimist.
The gay community, composed of many individuals who have been ostracized in many ways, has the incredible benefit of being accepting of diverse people. Frankly, this wide acceptance can instill fear in people, but it has taught me something that I have also learned in the Christian community—to love people for who they are exactly where they are. The gay community understands the challenge that it is to be diverse and refuses to let intolerance persist no matter how “weird” it may look.
Picasso Was Weird, But Look What He Made
The acceptance that exists within the gay community paves the way for dramatic expressionism. Before writing this post, I asked my boyfriend what he thought made the gay community unique. His response? “Creativity.” He was on to something in saying this.
Being a community of such diversity allows for deep expression. It gives people the freedom to explore the incommunicable parts of their emotional state that often remain unexamined by those who tend to feel bound by a mainstream requirement. Often out of this diversity comes beautiful art that actualizes that which people have often felt they couldn't express.
I find it one of the best things in my life that I get to be a part of this community in this way—I am a part of a community that is accepting enough to allow me to find the space and freedom to create something that’s uniquely mine.
Preaching to the Choir
As a gay person who loves God, I get a unique ability to represent the gay community to the Christian church. With dramatic tension existing between the gay and Christian communities, I find myself in a wonderful position: I get to show those struggling with the “gay issue” that I’m actually not a political dilemma, but the very real person that our pastor gets uncomfortable preaching about once every other year or so.
When the discussion of the gay debate arises to those close in my life it has become less of an “issue” and much more of a realistic situation for them to process. Thankfully, I get to help those around me see this situation in a manner that is more objective, no matter what their theological resolution is on the matter.
WHAT SHOULD I/WE BE? EXISTENCE THAT SUPERSEDES IDENTITY
As I’m writing this, I’m struggling to really understand what my role should be in the gay community. I’m finding that, yet again, my existence supersedes my identity, but I’m not totally sure how that plays out in actuality.
Those I’ve personally known and heard about who have attempted this tend to have a history of losing track of their existence in the gay community. That is, after finding a community that is so tolerant to difference—that seems to accept them completely—it becomes easy for them to seek their life's fulfillment in the gay community. It’s as if God (actually the Church) was too challenging to find acceptance with, so they gave up on finding any sense of home among Christians. I think that losing sight of my existence in God would be a dangerous place to find myself.
I’m not fully sure of the specifics, but I know that God gives me a more meaningful identity within the gay community. An identity that is stronger than the urge to succumb to the negative behaviors that shame has encouraged in our lives as gay people.
Perhaps, when my existence is fully informing who I am, I get to find solidarity with other gay people. Perhaps when I strive to remain aware of this God that I’m accountable to, I can be a genuine sign of hope to my communities and help to heal the years of damage done to it.